Photographing the Big Picture Through The Details


We spend a lot of time here at Shutter Photo discussing the big picture:  Building Blocks of Design, Inspirational Photos, Workflow, and so on.  Being able to see the forest for the trees is, of course, a very important aspect to any artform.  What is art without the big picture?  But to a phenominal artist:  The big picture is best achieved through the details.  Consider these tips to tighten up the details of your better big picture photographs:

  • Exhale Before the Shutter – When hand-holding your camera, many photographers brace their hold with their arms against their chest.  Exhaling and holding your breath helps to minimize any movement during the shutter – even for fast shutter speeds.
  • Be Aware of the Environment –  Out on a breezy day? Even a gentle gust could shake your tripod-mounted camera just enough to prevent a tack-sharp capture.  And remember, your environment includes everything around you, natural or unnatural.  Urban shooters should be aware of other people, vehicles or anything that could come between you and a great shot (or a bad injury).
  • Shoot With Your Eyes Out – After setting up for a shot on a tripod, sometimes I like to stand back to take the shot without looking through the lens.  This gives you a better view of the scene, and you can time the shot to make the best capture.  This is great for action photographs or candids.
  • Prepare Your Eyes – The human eye doesn’t adapt quickly to varying light conditions, and your viewfinder is dark.  When shooting in daylight and bright light, I will close my eyes for a few seconds before looking through the viewfinder.  My pupils are then wide open and ready to adjust to the lower light of your viewfinder.  This is a must if you’re using a depth-of-field preview button.
  • Using Reference Filters – When I am shooting for Black-and-White, I like to carry a red and yellow filter – even if I don’t intend to shoot through them.  While setting up the shot, I temporarily stick a filter in front of the lens just to get a better idea of how the shot will end up.  Not only does it show better contrast, but it will reduce the color depth just enough so that you can ignore the colors and visualize the finished shot.
  • Shoot With a Friend – Find a friend to shoot with.  Your different perspectives and thought processes will only help you both to grow.  Don’t be worried if you use different equipment:  The basic principals are always the same, regardless of the brand.
  • Review Your Shots (but don’t delete) – Digital affords us the ability of instant satisfaction.  Or, more specifically, instant proofs.  Take advantage and review your shots, review them often and adjust your shots accordingly.  Reviewing a shot can tell you whether it is out of focus, over or under exposed, framed the way you want, and so on.  But never delete a shot until you see it on a big screen.  On-camera displays are getting better, but they’re still too small to be practical for proofing.
  • +1 Experimentation – If I find a subject I like, I tend to shoot multiple shots the way I want.  Then I might shoot a ‘+1’ shot:  An experimental shot with a questionable outcome.  Some of these shots may make the grade, but most end up in the trash can.  But every +1 experiment will teach me something.

Everyone has their little tips, subtle routines and detail focused suggestions.  If you have something to add, or if you’d like to expand on something I’ve listed here, please feel free to discuss below.

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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